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Women and people with a cervix encourage to take smear test

By Jonathan Clark

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WOMEN and people with a cervix are being encouraged not to ignore their smear test invite, as a drive gets under way to highlight the importance of screening for the human papillomavirus virus (HPV).

To mark Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, healthcare professionals have reinforced the message that the cervical screening test now offered is more sensitive, screening for HPV – the main cause of cervical cancer – to help ensure cell changes can be identified and treated earlier.

As the test is more effective, those who are found to have HPV will be invited for screening every year, so any cell changes can be closely monitored, and referred for further investigation and treatment if needed.

Those whose test sample shows no signs of HPV will be invited for their screening appointment in five years, as evidence shows the chance of developing cervical cancer during this time is very low.

Scotland introduced five-year cervical screening testing for women aged between 25 and 49 with no HPV in March 2020, at the same time as HPV testing was introduced into the cervical screening programme.

This followed a recommendation from the UK National Screening Committee, the body of scientists who advise ministers and the NHS about screening programmes.

Professor Shantini Paranjothy, Honorary Consultant Public Health Medicine from NHS Grampian, today reassured women about testing for HPV as they encouraged those eligible to attend their smear test appointment when invited.

“Even if everything feels fine, it’s important not to ignore your smear test invite as it can stop cervical cancer before it starts," she said.

“HPV testing, which is carried out as part of your smear test, is much more effective and sensitive, helping identify those at higher risk of cervical cancer much quicker.

“It takes a long time for HPV to develop into cervical cancer, so it’s very rare for a woman who doesn’t have HPV to develop cervical cancer within five years.

“If HPV is found as part of your smear, please try not to worry. HPV is very common, and you’ll be invited back every year to monitor any cell changes, before they could potentially develop into cervical cancer.

“It’s understandable to feel anxious about the smear test itself, but the five minute test is the best way of preventing cervical cancer, so please don’t put it off.”

For more information on cervical screening, visit nhsinform.scot/cervicalscreening and for information on HPV, visit www.jostrust.org.uk/hpv.

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